Senate Bill (SB) 1226, which was passed during the 83rd legislative session, established Employment First as state policy in Texas. The Employment First policy states that earning a living through competitive integrated employment is the first and preferred outcome for adults with disabilities who receive public benefits. SB 1226 also established an Employment First Task Force to promote the competitive employment of people with disabilities.
Employment First Policy
The Employment First policy must:
- Affirm that an individual with a disability is able to meet the same employment standards as an individual who does not have a disability;
- Ensure that all working-age individuals with disabilities, including young adults, are offered factual information about employment as an individual with a disability, including the relationship between earned income and public benefits;
- Ensure that individuals with disabilities are given the opportunity to understand and explore options for education or training, including postsecondary, graduate, and postgraduate education, vocational or technical training, or other training, as pathways to employment;
- Promote the availability and accessibility of individualized training designed to prepare an individual with a disability for the individual’s preferred employment;
- Promote partnerships with employers to overcome barriers to meeting workforce needs with the creative use of technology and innovation;
- Ensure that the staff of public schools, vocational service programs, and community providers are trained and supported to assist in achieving the goal of competitive employment for all individuals with disabilities; and
- Ensure that competitive employment, while being the priority and preferred outcome, is not required of an individual with a disability to secure or maintain public benefits for which the individual is otherwise eligible.
Employment First Task Force
The Health and Human Services Commission’s (HHSC) Executive Commissioner must establish an interagency Employment First Task Force to promote the competitive employment of people with disabilities and the expectation that Texans with disabilities are able to meet the same employment standards, responsibilities, and expectations as other working-age adults. The task force expires September 1, 2017.
The task force must:
- design an education and outreach process targeted at working-age individuals with disabilities, including young adults with disabilities, the families of those individuals, the seven assigned state agencies, and service providers, that is aimed at raising expectations of the success of individuals with disabilities in integrated, individualized, and competitive employment;
- develop recommendations for policy, procedure, and rules changes that are necessary to allow the Employment First policy to be fully implemented; and
- not later than September 1 of each even-numbered year, prepare and submit to the office of the governor, the Legislature, and the executive commissioner a report regarding the task force’s findings and recommendations, including the impact of the policy.
The executive commissioner must appoint members to the task force, which will include at least the following:
- an individual with a disability;
- a family member of an individual with a disability;
- an advocate for individuals with disabilities;
- a representative of a provider of integrated and competitive employment services;
- an employer or a representative of an employer in an industry in which individuals with disabilities might be employed; and
- representatives from seven state agencies.
At least one-third of the task force must be composed of individuals with disabilities and no more than one-third of the task force may be composed of advocates for individuals with disabilities.